Illinois union OKs strike over Rauner contract dispute - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Illinois union OKs strike over Rauner contract dispute

(Source: Wikimedia Commons) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - Tens of thousands of Illinois government workers have voted in favor of authorizing a strike if contract talks don't progress.

The state council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees reported Thursday that 81 percent of union members voting favored a strike.

Roberta Lynch is AFSCME executive director. She says the vote empowers the union's executive board to call a strike "if no other path forward can be found."

The vote to authorize the union bargaining committee to call a strike does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. The bargaining committee will meet in the coming days to chart its path, and pending litigation could also play a role.

“State workers don’t want to strike. We are keenly aware of the importance of the public services we provide, and we are willing to compromise,” AFSCME director Lynch said. “But if Governor Rauner continues to refuse his legal obligation to bargain in good faith, he risks a strike that would shut down state government, and he alone bears responsibility for the harm a strike would cause.”

AFSCME's 38,000 members have been unable to agree on a contract with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for two years.

Rauner's general counsel is Dennis Murashko. He issued a statement saying the vote was "an attack on our state's hardworking taxpayers."

It's the first such vote in 40 years of state-employee collective bargaining.

Gov. Rauner's administration released a statement regarding the union's consideration of a strike-authorization vote.

“The vote to authorize a strike is an attack on our state's hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on critical services provided everyday. It is a direct result of AFSCME leadership’s ongoing misinformation campaign about our proposal. AFSCME leaders would rather strike than work 40 hours a week before earning overtime.

"If AFSCME chooses to strike, we will use every resource to ensure services continue to be available to the people of Illinois. We continue to encourage AFSCME to work with us in implementing a contract that is similar to those ratified by 20 other unions.”

Employees at work sites across the state voted from Jan. 30 through Sunday. They were asked whether to give the union's executive committee power to call a strike if necessary.

A state labor regulator declared last fall that talks had reached "impasse." That allows Rauner to implement the employment terms he prefers and the union to strike if it chooses.

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Copyright 2017 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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